Like the entire world, Gavin Grace had no idea his life would be dramatically changed when he woke up the morning of September 11, 2001. But unlike the entire world, he used the tragedy of the events as an impetus to redefine his professional priorities and begin an entirely new entity from scratch. Please join me for this inspiring interview about one member's struggles and triumphs, the range of services he offers through his Blue Peach Media company, as well as some very special work opportunities for NGLCCNY members.
Damon L. Jacobs: Tell me how Blue Peach Media came about.
Gavin Grace: I went to Art School here in New York, and became an intern at a film production company. Then I got into shooting film and video, editing, and graphics. After 9/11 the company kind of splintered. Our offices were across the street from the World Trade Center in the Century 21 building. The company limped along for a bit, but then I decided to start my own company, Blue Peach Media, in 2003.
Damon L. Jacobs: Were you in your office when the attacks happened?
Gavin Grace: I was on a train on my way there. I was a little late that morning. They kept having us change trains, which was very unusual. We were in the station and they announced, “This train is not going downtown anymore.” It happened two or three times. I had no idea what was happening until I got above ground. I don’t remember where I was, I just remember the smoke. It was fairly traumatic.
Damon L. Jacobs: How did that experience contribute to starting Blue Peach Media?
Gavin Grace: Before that I had spent a lot of time working weekends and all nighters. Although we had done some interesting projects, I was basically working all the time for someone else. I decided after 9/11 I was no longer going to work weekends and late nights as a staff person. It was too big of a trade off. When you’re working all the time you are trading off your personal life. I wasn't building anything for myself; I was building a business for someone else. I thought, okay, I need to build something for myself.
Damon L. Jacobs: Since 2003 Blue Peach has grown tremendously. Tell me about the services you offer.
Gavin Grace: We do the full range of production and post-production packages. Over the course we’ve learned to translate the client message into a compelling and interesting visual presentation, whether it’s in the form of a video, or in 2D or 3D animation graphics. A lot of it is just making it concise. Often there is a lot more information than you can possibly present, information people won’t remember. So a lot is editing, honing the message down to something clear and succinct.
Damon L. Jacobs: When a client first comes to you, how do you decide what the look and feel of the final product will be?
Gavin Grace: That’s the big question. Always, I do a needs-analysis. We sit down, I ask a lot of questions, and figure out what they need, what they need to say, what they need to do, who do they need to say it to, how have they said this in the past, and what is different now?
Damon L. Jacobs: How do these ideas come to you? Is it just the artist in you?
Gavin Grace: Through trial and error. And it comes from the clients. Often the clients will have ideas, but more often the client, as a corporate entity, has an image they want to portray. It also depends on the context. If you’re doing something for an investment relations department, those guys are very serious. They want information, not a lot of flash. But the same group may want something with a different personality. A lot of things that go into the message, the tone of the message, and what the visual style will be.
Damon L. Jacobs: One thing I like about the Blue Peach Media reel is how crisp and welcoming your work is. You make technology seem fun and inviting.
Gavin Grace: That is something we are working toward. To make the product lively and entertaining, but effective. That is the goal. We want it to be fun to watch.
Damon L. Jacobs: What has been the greatest struggle you have faced professionally these past eight years?
Gavin Grace: The marketing part of it. I feel comfortable saying that I am good at the work. I have never been marketing / networking type of person. It has fallen on me to do that...it’s not my forte. That’s the struggle.
Damon L. Jacobs: Then what made you want to join NGLCCNY?
Gavin Grace: While running my own business as a gay man, in a world that is predominantly straight, there are times I have felt a bit awkward, out-of-place, alienated from the group of straight business people I’m interacting with. Or often time it’s even from clients I have. You become friendly and the conversation naturally moves toward talk of girlfriends and wives, and I find myself going silent. It’s an awkward feeling. It often serves as a wedge between me and a client, or a potential client. It’s not always something that is spoken, but it’s something that is there, something I feel.
I was talking to a friend about this back home. He said, “I wonder if there is some sort of gay organization that you could belong to.” We looked online, and were very happy to see that there was a Gay Lesbian Chamber of Commerce here in New York. I was thrilled to find the group and become a part of it. It was a big deal for me both professionally and personally. It was a sort of coming out for me.
Damon L. Jacobs: Did you find the group to be understanding of your professional experiences and struggles?
Gavin Grace: Very. The several times I met with Thomas Koveleskie and Richard Oceguera, they were very pleasant, very nice, very warm and welcoming. I got pinned, I gave my five word awkward stuttering speech (laughs), and it was nice. As my business grows I would love to draw from a pool of smart and intelligent people who share my same experience, and to work with me to produce these projects. The GSA contracting schedule potentially has a lot of work.
Damon L. Jacobs: Tell me about the GSA contracting schedule?
Gavin Grace: It stands for the General Services Administration contract schedule with the Federal government.
Damon L. Jacobs: And what does that mean for Blue Peach Media?
Gavin Grace: It means we have been fully vetted and approved as a pre-approved vendor for video production, post-production, and animation services to the Federal government. It’s really great. It’s a five year contract with three options to renew for up to twenty years.
Damon L. Jacobs: And who from NGLCCNY are you looking to hire for these projects?
Gavin Grace: We need writers, videographers, and people with film and video production experience, post production editing, 2D and 3D animation, graphics, photographers, even musicians. Plus I’m looking for people with marketing experience. It has become evident that marketing is a very big part of the picture. We will need to find marketing people.
Damon L. Jacobs: If someone is reading this and is interested in working with you, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
Gavin Grace: They can just email me at Gavin@BluePeachMedia.com. They can send a resume, send a note. We may have things soon, or in the future, we don’t exactly know how or when it will come together.
Damon L. Jacobs: If you could go back to 2003, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself starting Blue Peach Media?
Gavin Grace: Don’t freak out! Have a little more faith. Things have a way of working out. Things have a tendency to get better, even better than you might think they will.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to grief and loss, HIV related concerns, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at Shouldless@gmail.com. An initial complimentary consultation is offered to NGLCCNY members, or people who are referred by NGLCCNY members.